CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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LOSING EYESIGHT

As we age, there is nothing more alarming than slowing losing our eyesight. For some of us, it began in our youth. Losing eyesight begins with our eyes not adjusting as quickly when coming into a dark room from the light.  It progresses to losing sight of the details.  Leaves on trees become green blobs unless we come really close to see individual leaves attached to the branches.

So, we go the eye doctor who prescribes lens with correction so we can see more clearly what we have been missing in our slow decline.  I will never forget what my oldest daughter said as a teenager when she put on her first pair of glasses for the trip home.  As we drove, she was amazed.  “I never knew that building had individual bricks.  I see the lines, now!”  “And look at the trees!”  She was so excited and amazed to SEE all the details she had been missing in life.

Because in most cases losing eyesight is a slow decline, we sometimes just accept it while modifying and adapting our lifestyles to it—until we can no longer see at all!  Then it might be too late for correction!  We do this spiritually, too, says Jesus. 

Here’s how the Son of God explains it…

John—God’s Love

John 12:36-50, The Message

Their Eyes Are Blinded

36-40 Jesus said all this, and then went into hiding. All these God-signs he had given them and they still didn’t get it, still wouldn’t trust him. This proved that the prophet Isaiah was right:

God, who believed what we preached?
Who recognized God’s arm, outstretched and ready to act?

First, they wouldn’t believe, then they couldn’t—again, just as Isaiah said:

Their eyes are blinded,
    their hearts are hardened,
So that they wouldn’t see with their eyes
    and perceive with their hearts,
And turn to me, God,
    so I could heal them.

41 Isaiah said these things after he got a glimpse of God’s overflowing glory that would pour through the Messiah.

42-43 On the other hand, a considerable number from the ranks of the leaders did believe. But because of the Pharisees, they didn’t come out in the open with it. They were afraid of getting kicked out of the meeting place. When push came to shove they cared more for human approval than for God’s glory.

44-46 Jesus summed it all up when he cried out, “Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.

47-50 “If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn’t take it seriously, I don’t reject him. I didn’t come to reject the world; I came to save the world. But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I’m saying, is willfully choosing rejection. The Word, the Word-made-flesh that I have spoken and that I am, that Word and no other is the last word. I’m not making any of this up on my own. The Father who sent me gave me orders, told me what to say and how to say it. And I know exactly what his command produces: real and eternal life. That’s all I have to say. What the Father told me, I tell you.”

WHAT LEADS TO SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS?

–Caring more for human approval than for God’s glory.

–Adjusting to the world’s ways, avoiding correction from God.

–Going blind to the details of what God wants for us—His best life for us.

–Unbelief in God

–Refusing to see Truth

–Refusing to see God at work—”Who recognized God’s arm, outstretched and ready to act?”

–Refusing to see to understand

–Rejecting God of our own free will not wanting His will to be done in our lives.

The diagnosis and cure for spiritual blindness

“Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.”—Jesus, The Great Physician

Hallelujah, praise God for healing us from spiritual blindness!!  Believe.  Come into the Light and get a good look at the Savior who loves us more than we can imagine!  When we do, our blinded eyes receive sight once more and we are no longer stumbling around in the dark!

Lord,

I was blind but now I see!  Thank you for saving my soul, healing my spiritual blindness, correcting and overriding my will to see your will which is best for my life.  You are God.  Jesus, you are Healer.  Thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do to mold and shape me to be who you created me to be.  May all I do today be done in your Name for your glory.  Lead me, Lord.  Open my eyes, Lord and help me to see your Truth always.

In Jesus Name, Amen

Casting Crowns has a beautiful song that describes the healing of spiritual blindness called Blinded Eyes…Here are the lyrics:

You say I’m lame for calling on a man that I have never seen
You say I’m crazy for listening for a voice that I have never heard
You say that I am so naive to think that He could love me
but I have joy and I have peace
that will never ever leave me

Is it because you’ve never seen
Is it because you’ve never heard
that you’re comfortable in darkness
in a lost and dying world
He’ll be standing all around you
with His arms held open wide
and you’re straining just to see Him
through blinded eyes

Open your eyes the place where you are standing now is holy ground
God shined His light straight into you heart now look what you’ve found
Is that right what you call righteousness
All dressed up in Sunday best
They’re draped across the stage
Only Jesus never walked away

Open your heart, He’ll open your eyes
show you the hope you have inside
call on the Name of Christ
and He will save you
and give you wings to fly!

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RECKLESS IN LOVE AND SERVING

I am fortunate.  I have had a couple of generations before me to show me what reckless love and serving looks like in every day life.  My “testimony” to the rest of the world would be boring.  When I became a believer at an early age, I internalized what I saw in my grandparents and parents.  God first, love others and help as needed.  We spent a lot of time at church or in the neighborhoods telling others about Jesus.  We were not perfect and we knew we were not perfect.  We did not live perfect lives, immune from sinful pride, selfishness, envy, working for the wrong motives, but we knew who to go to for perfect, complete forgiveness.  God’s Holy Spirit in us guided, corrected, and led us to the path God wanted.  It was up to us to do what He said.  We were taught in order to live life for Christ, we had to lay down our lives and let go of what we wanted in order to take up living the great life, eternal life God wanted for us.  See, I told my testimony was boring, but not without flaws! 

As I grew in the faith, I met many more people in my work as a teacher.  I realized many people in our world did not have the luxury of loving mentors and models.  In fact, they had just the opposite.  Many children watched as dads left moms, moms ran back home to momma, uncles who were abusive, sisters and brothers fight for the affection of their parents, kids who have kids who have kids with knowing how to raise kids.  To me, this was living a reckless life.  What could I do about it?

Jesus!  I learned I could  tell them what Jesus did for us, not with words, but with the reckless, unconditional love of Christ while serving the world.  Demanding gets us nowhere.  I think this is what Jesus is talking about in our next passage.  I had to let go of what I wanted to say and do and listen to what God wanted.  I had to learn to love recklessly, unconditionally, serving with mercy and grace right where people are while praying for God’s best to arise in them like He did for me. Jesus saves.  We merely join Him in His work to help people find and follow Him by showing the reckless, serving love of Christ.  We are still not perfect, only Jesus is perfect.  That’s why we cannot be the sacrifice for others, only Jesus can.  But we can tell them the Truth of who Jesus is and what He did for each of us.

Live for Christ!  FOLLOW ME, says Jesus.  This is how…

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.” –Jesus

I turn to Warren Wiersbe, Commentator to explain these words for us;

“Jesus used the image of a seed to illustrate the great spiritual truth that there can be no glory without suffering, no fruitful life without death, no victory without surrender. Of itself, a seed is weak and useless, but when it is planted, it “dies” and becomes fruitful. There is both beauty and bounty when a seed “dies” and fulfills its purpose. If a seed could talk, it would no doubt complain about being put into the cold, dark earth. But the only way it can achieve its goal is by being planted. God’s children are like seeds. They are small and insignificant, but they have life in them, God’s life. However, that life can never be fulfilled unless we yield ourselves to God and permit Him to “plant us.” We must die to self so that we may live unto God (Rom. 6; Gal. 2:20). The only way to have a fruitful life is to follow Jesus Christ in death, burial, and resurrection.”  (Wierbe)

This “death” to self comes from our repentance to Christ of our sins. We “bury” the old life and are resurrected to a new life with Christ.  Our baptism signifies this perfectly! God leads us then to His best, abundant, eternal life, a life full of His reckless love that leads to a heart with a growing desire to serve in ways that help people to find and follow Jesus, too.  Reproduction infinitely and exponentially multiplied!  To God be the glory! 

John—God’s Love

John 12:20-36, The Message

A Grain of Wheat Must Die

20-21 There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: “Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?”

22-23 Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

24-25 “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.

27-28 “Right now I am shaken. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”

A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it, and I’ll glorify it again.”

29 The listening crowd said, “Thunder!”

Others said, “An angel spoke to him!”

30-33 Jesus said, “The voice didn’t come for me but for you. At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out. And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.” He put it this way to show how he was going to be put to death.

34 Voices from the crowd answered, “We heard from God’s Law that the Messiah lasts forever. How can it be necessary, as you put it, that the Son of Man ‘be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35-36 Jesus said, “For a brief time still, the light is among you. Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn’t destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don’t know where you’re going. As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light.”

Lord,

I want to walk in the Light of your reckless, limitless love.  May your Light in me be seen by others searching for love, real love.  Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Lead us not into temptations but deliver us from evil and evil’s schemes to bring us down and hinder our growth.  I know you will.  I trust you.  I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.  Show me your ways and I will walk in them.  Thank you for your loving patience with me.  I know there is still a lot of work in me to be done by you.  I’m willing.  I’m yours.

In Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe.

Playing the background…Reckless Love by Cory Asbury

Before I spoke a word
You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me

Before I took a breath
You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

Oh, the overwhelming, never-endin’
Reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down
Fights ’til I’m found
Leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it and I don’t deserve it
Still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending
Reckless love of God…

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THE MIRACLE BROUGHT THE MASSES

What brings us to a large event?  Word of mouth?  Extreme promotions?  Curiosity?  “Seeing is believing”, most people say, so they come.  Today we pay money to hear, see and experience what the masses say we should.  We are all like sheep who follow whatever or whomever is in front of us telling us what tickles our ears and entices us to follow.

In our small passage to day the masses have come for several reasons.  Some people came who had witnessed the raising of Lazarus and are telling everyone about this miracle performed by Jesus.  Some are coming to Jerusalem as a pilgrimage to celebrate Jewish customs and heritage.  Then the last group gathering are the religious leaders who were greatly concerned about what Jesus might do at the feast (John 12:19). At each of the different feasts, the people were in keen expectation, wondering if Jesus would be there and what He would do. It looked as though Jesus was actually seeking to incite a revolution and establish Himself as king, but that was not what He had in mind.  Most in the crowds don’t know heart of Jesus.  They don’t know why He came.  Most don’t know Who He really is.  They only follow because of what they have seen the Son of Man do, fear what He might do along with curiosity.  Seeing is believing after all, so the masses come to see the One who did the miracle. 

Even Jesus beloved disciples didn’t notice all the implications going on at the time.  Everything Jesus said and did fulfill the Scriptures written centuries before, the words of God’s prophets.  They didn’t realize, yet, that Jesus was doing the will of the Father in every detail.

Jerusalem was noisy and lively with many Jewish people coming from the surrounding towns to celebrate The Feast leading to the Passover.   John’s gospel account shifts the scene from a quiet dinner in Bethany to a noisy public parade in Jerusalem. This was the only “public demonstration” that our Lord allowed while He was ministering on earth. His purpose was to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy (Zech. 9:9). The result was a growing animosity on the part of the religious leaders, leading eventually to the crucifixion of the Savior.

John—God’s Love

John 12:12-19, The Message

See How Your King Comes

12-15 The next day the huge crowd that had arrived for the Feast heard that Jesus was entering Jerusalem. They broke off palm branches and went out to meet him. And they cheered:

Hosanna!

Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!

Yes! The King of Israel!

Jesus got a young donkey and rode it, just as the Scripture has it:

No fear, Daughter Zion:
    See how your king comes,
    riding a donkey’s colt.

16 The disciples didn’t notice the fulfillment of many Scriptures at the time, but after Jesus was glorified, they remembered that what was written about him matched what was done to him.

17-19 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, was there giving eyewitness accounts. It was because they had spread the word of this latest God-sign that the crowd swelled to a welcoming parade. The Pharisees took one look and threw up their hands: “It’s out of control. The world’s in a stampede after him.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN?

The resurrection of Lazarus miracle brought the masses to see Jesus.  To them believing was seeing.

The crowds praise Jesus with the words of Scripture, “Blessed is he who comes in God’s Name!”

The Pharisees’ anger grows as the words of evil come from their lips, “Its out of control.  The world’s in a stampede after him.”

God is in control at all times.  Jesus is doing exactly what the Father directs Him to do.

“The disciples didn’t notice the fulfillment of many Scriptures at the time, but after Jesus was glorified, they remembered that what was written about him matched what was done to him.”

We won’t get or understand all that is happening in and to us, around us, and through us until the end.  But this one thing we are assured, God is in control.  Jesus has defeated death.  All who believe will be saved.

Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!

Lord,

Thank you for teaching us your wisdom through this small portion of Your Word.  We will read later how the fickle masses turn their praises to jeering in a few days.  Oh Lord, what you went through to save us breaks our hearts and at the same time fills our souls with joy and thanksgiving.  We don’t have to physically see You to believe in what you have done for us.  We know in our heart of hearts that you are real.  You are real to my heart, mind and soul.  Thank you for loving me that way you do.  Help me to love others like you love and forgave me.

In Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe. 

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LOVE EXPRESSED WHILE THE PLOT THICKENS

Truth: Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus was/is perfect in every way.  Jesus loved everyone, even his accusers.  Jesus knew/knows every heart.  Jesus was/is not fooled at any time by what people do because of who they were.  Jesus knew God, His Father, was in charge and in control.  Jesus always went to His Father for direction before doing anything in His ministry on earth.  Yes, we can learn a lot about from Jesus, who is Life, if we believe. Do we check in with the Father to be with Him before doing?

The community and surrounding towns people are in awe of Jesus who raised a man from death after four days.  Imagine the chatter! The news got around quickly of this miracle that was beyond anything they had ever seen.  People came in droves to see the Man who made it happen and the man who was raised.  They needed to SEE the one who was dead but is now alive.

However, the religious leaders were angry, driven by fear of losing their own power over these oppressed people. The Jewish people were oppressed under Roman rule as well oppressed by the religious leaders who forgot God and mandated additions to God’s Law to gain power with benefits for themselves.  Jesus is upsetting the norm.  He is counter-culture, a revolutionary of love, mercy and grace. Jesus is Prince of Peace.  Jesus has got to be stopped!

This is the scene as Jesus visits his friend Lazarus who is now sitting at the table with him in conversation.  Only a few days earlier he was wrapped up in grave cloths laying in a dark tomb!  Now he is sitting with the Light of the World in casual talk!  I wonder what they are talking about?  “So, how did you do it, how did you raise me from the dead?”  I wonder how many times Lazarus and his sisters thank Jesus while he reclines at their table?  How lavish the meal Martha must have prepared! 

Then Mary comes in with expensive perfume, probably preserved for her own burial as was the custom in that day.  It was worth a year’s wages!  Mary brought out the precious oil, broke the alabaster jar and spilled it out over the feet of Jesus.  She then rubs it into Jesus’ feet with her hair as another sign of her devoted love.  This is the ultimate picture of gratitude and sacrifice from Mary.  It will symbolize what Jesus will do on the cross, His body sacrificed, His blood spilled out for all our sins.  The oils meant for burial is now used in honor of the One who gives Life!

“She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial.”                                                Judas criticizes Mary and her act of indulgence.  Jesus responds with great love in defense of Mary who loved him back.  “Let her alone.” Mary is led by her God-filled heart.  She shows great love to Jesus while He is still with them.  I wonder, how many times do we take our loved ones for granted, rarely showing and telling how much they are loved—until the funeral?  Those who love like Mary, who love Jesus with all their heart, mind and soul, love well.   

John—God’s Love

John 12:1-11, The Message

Anointing His Feet

1-3 Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house.

4-6 Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them.

7-8 Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.”

9-11 Word got out among the Jews that he was back in town. The people came to take a look, not only at Jesus but also at Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead. So the high priests plotted to kill Lazarus because so many of the Jews were going over and believing in Jesus on account of him.

Lord,

As we walk through the words of John depicting your final days on earth, we have nothing but love and gratitude.  There are not enough words in our language to tell you how much I love you and how grateful I am that you saved my soul.  You love when I feel unlovable.  You love when I am angry at myself or others who hurt me.  You love when I mess up with precious words of restoration.  Yes, You are God and we are not.  We need you every hour.  All I have is yours.  I believe.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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TATTLETALES, GOSSIPERS AND NAYSAYERS

As kids on the school playground trying something that might be risky but worth it, there were always one who would run to tell the teacher even before you did it!  Remember?  Yes, we never liked tattletales who told a bigger story in their panicked voices of what actually happened or might happen, right?  As a teacher, I didn’t like tattletales, either.  I knew what was going on as I stood in a place where I could see all the kids at once time.  But still they came to report.  These were the kids too afraid to try anything themselves so they made sure no one else did either. 

Gossipers and naysayers, (yes it begins at a young age!), would look closely at any possible infraction of the rules and report first to each other, build their case and then come to the Teacher.  Most tattletales wanted most of all, the attention of the teacher or anyone else who would listen to them.  Tattletales, gossipers and naysayers sound the alarm in any given circumstance, not to help or alleviate the situation with a solution but to gain the attention of anyone who would listen.  They are power seekers whose only power lies within themselves with the false and exaggerated information they create to wow their listeners.

Am I one of these?  I must ask myself and repent of this act of selfishness that does not build others up but instead, breaks down the pieces God uses to build upon our foundation of Jesus Himself.  How solid is my foundation?  Is my faith built on Jesus Christ, the solid rock and nothing less like we sing…or not?

Jesus had his own tattletales, gossipers and naysayers in every detail of his ministry on earth.  Jesus was perfect (unlike us) who knew exactly how to handle every situation because He went to His Father first!  He knew His mission and did not deter from it.  Jesus knew to go to His Father before deciding each step to take.  God gave Jesus what to say, when to say it and what not to say.  We love this Holy, Perfect relationship between Father and Son! 

Because of Jesus, we can have the same relationship with God!  We can also come boldly to Him for salvation with help, protection, provision, love, mercy and grace filled with peace to live every day life on earth. God knows our hearts.  God knows when tattletales get you down or when gossipers try to hinder what He has asked you to be and do.  God even fights your battles for you.  Yes, God is FOR us, not against us.  When we think anything less than this Truth, we are listening to The Liar who truly is against us.

John—God’s Love

John 11:45-57

The Man Who Creates God-Signs

45-48 That was a turning point for many of the Jews who were with Mary. They saw what Jesus did, and believed in him. But some went back to the Pharisees and told on Jesus. The high priests and Pharisees called a meeting of the Jewish ruling body. “What do we do now?” they asked. “This man keeps on doing things, creating God-signs. If we let him go on, pretty soon everyone will be believing in him and the Romans will come and remove what little power and privilege we still have.”

49-52 Then one of them—it was Caiaphas, the designated Chief Priest that year—spoke up, “Don’t you know anything? Can’t you see that it’s to our advantage that one man dies for the people rather than the whole nation be destroyed?” He didn’t say this of his own accord, but as Chief Priest that year he unwittingly prophesied that Jesus was about to die sacrificially for the nation, and not only for the nation but so that all God’s exile-scattered children might be gathered together into one people.

53-54 From that day on, they plotted to kill him. So Jesus no longer went out in public among the Jews. He withdrew into the country bordering the desert to a town called Ephraim and secluded himself there with his disciples.

55-56 The Jewish Passover was coming up. Crowds of people were making their way from the country up to Jerusalem to get themselves ready for the Feast. They were curious about Jesus. There was a lot of talk of him among those standing around in the Temple: “What do you think? Do you think he’ll show up at the Feast or not?”

57 Meanwhile, the high priests and Pharisees gave out the word that anyone who knew his whereabouts should inform them. They were all set to arrest him.

WHAT WE LEARN…

Moments after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the naysayers and gossipers kicked into full gear while sending the tattletales running to the Pharisees to report.  They “told on Jesus.”  How childish this sounds, right? 

KEY STATEMENT: “This man keeps on doing things, creating God-signs. If we let him go on, pretty soon everyone will be believing in him and the Romans will come and remove what little power and privilege we still have.”  And there we have it—it’s all about their own power and has nothing to do with God.  They missed the point of Jesus’ Resurrection power!

God has not relinquished His authority.  God is still in control.  He speaks through Caiaphas who cluelessly prophesied what Jesus will indeed do to save the world from sin.

While Jesus lays low because it is not yet “His time”, the religious leaders plot to arrest and kill Jesus. 

Stay tuned.  Tattletales, gossipers and naysayers do not win in the end.  Truth wins.

Lord,

We are learning to come to you first and only before doing or saying anything.  Jesus did.  We want to imitate Him and be more like Jesus and less like our human selves.  We don’t want to be a tattletale or gossiper.  We don’t want to be distracted from what you have given us to be and do by those who try to bring us down while doing your work.  Fight this battle for us.  Deliver us from all evil and evil’s schemes.  I want what you want for my life.  I believe.  I trust you with my life and no one else.  Show me the right way to go.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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NEW GROUNDS FOR BELIEVING

As a former pastor, Randy has officiated many funerals and counseled with grieving people who feel lost without the one they loved so dearly who has left earth for heaven with Jesus if they believed.  I helped Randy on many occasions in my past with the music and the loving comfort counseling.  We have learned that many come to “pay their respects”, to bring a casserole, or file by to acknowledge with tears the one loved who is now dead.  To those empathetic, tears automatically flow when we see another cry and mourn their loss.  The moment is touching. 

Because of being a part of so many funerals, we have also noticed that for some people it is just a ritual they feel they must perform.  They know of someone who knew of someone who knew the deceased.  Or some family members come to unleash the guilt they have because of rarely visiting the person when they were alive.  Some come to gossip and give reason as to why the deceased died.  (Yes, we’ve heard it.)  Some complain about the pie, the dry ham, the service, along with gossiping about who was not there.  Gossip is such a “sport” to we humans.  There are many reasons why people come to funerals. 

In the Jewish community, when a person died, paid mourners come to cry and wail whether they know the person or not.  It is their “job” to provide this service to the community.  So, knowing this, we understand when Mary jumps up and runs to Jesus, the paid mourners follow her to continue their wailing work.  It is not so much about the “one they love” who died but it is about doing their job. 

To carry this thought a bit further, some of the Jewish leaders are in attendance, not to grieve but to see if Jesus shows up. They know Lazarus and his sisters are friends Jesus loves dearly so they are pretty sure Jesus will show up.  Yes, there is another agenda with limited power at work here that is not of God.  The Jewish leaders want to kill him.  Even the disciples knew and expressed this fact before making the trip. 

As soon as Jesus arrives, we see anger well up in Jesus, not because of the death of Lazarus, but at the false wailing who accompany Mary and the leaders in attendance to see what will happen next.  They have yet to believe Who is in charge and Who will be the Victor over death.  Love for Lazarus and his sisters did not bring the tears to Jesus eyes, it was the displayed hypocrisy.  Jesus knew from God what He was going to do—raise Lazarus from death—to show the glory and power of God!  The tears come from a jealous God, through Jesus, who grieves over those who do not believe in Him.

“When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him?” 

He previously asked a grieving Martha, who was probably organizing the casseroles in the kitchen, “do you believe?”  If fact, our whole theology of faith is laid out in the words of our Savior and Lord to Martha when He said, “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”

Before making the trip Jesus told his disciples, ““You’re about to be given new grounds for believing.”  Jesus did just as He said. 

John—God’s Love

John 11:1-44, The Message

The Death of Lazarus

1-3 A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. This was the same Mary who massaged the Lord’s feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Master, the one you love so very much is sick.”

When Jesus got the message, he said, “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.”

5-7 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days. After the two days, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”

They said, “Rabbi, you can’t do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you’re going back?”

9-10 Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in daylight doesn’t stumble because there’s plenty of light from the sun. Walking at night, he might very well stumble because he can’t see where he’s going.”

11 He said these things, and then announced, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.”

12-13 The disciples said, “Master, if he’s gone to sleep, he’ll get a good rest and wake up feeling fine.” Jesus was talking about death, while his disciples thought he was talking about taking a nap.

14-15 Then Jesus became explicit: “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”

16 That’s when Thomas, the one called the Twin, said to his companions, “Come along. We might as well die with him.”

17-20 When Jesus finally got there, he found Lazarus already four days dead. Bethany was near Jerusalem, only a couple of miles away, and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother. Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him. Mary remained in the house.

21-22 Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”

23 Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.”

24 Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”

25-26 “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.”

28 After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”

29-32 The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not yet entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb to weep there. Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33-34 When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him?”

34-35 “Master, come and see,” they said. Now Jesus wept.

36 The Jews said, “Look how deeply he loved him.”

37 Others among them said, “Well, if he loved him so much, why didn’t he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man.”

38-39 Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.”

The sister of the dead man, Martha, said, “Master, by this time there’s a stench. He’s been dead four days!”

40 Jesus looked her in the eye. “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

41-42 Then, to the others, “Go ahead, take away the stone.”

They removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.”

43-44 Then he shouted,

THINK ABOUT IT…

“You’re about to be given new grounds for believing.”—Jesus

 The raising of Lazarus was done so that people would believe.  Lazarus will eventually die a second time but will live forever in heaven because he believed.

“Lazarus, come out!”  Still wrapped up in death clothes, Lazarus inhaled the breath of God who gave him life!  Imagine this heart-stopping phenomenon along with the startled faces of the crowd who observed this walking mummy emerge from the tomb!

“Unwrap him and let him loose.”  Death and the wrappings of death cannot tie us down when we believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord!

A short time later, Jesus will die for the “ones He loves”—Lazarus, his sisters, his beloved disciples, his earth family, and you and I who love and believe Him. Jesus died for all sins, our sins, paying the debt in full.  Jesus gives us “even greater grounds for believing” by defeating death once more (as he did for Lazarus) and rises again.  He is, indeed, the resurrection and life forever.  He is the great I AM. 

“Do you believe this?”—Jesus is asking.

Lord,

I believe.  I trust You with my life.  All of it.  To you be the glory forevermore.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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TRUTH IS IN THE EVIDENCE

If we were placed on trial for being a believer of Jesus, what evidence would counsel present to the judge and jury?  What behaviors would they show to prove we follow Jesus daily, asking for His will to be done in His ways, in His time, for His glory?  What would they say about our words said causally in conversations or on Facebook with our friends and family members, to people who serve as in the marketplace, to strangers on the street or to foreigners who take up residence in our country to find peace and a better life? 

Who are our witnesses?  What would our witnesses who say about how we live our lives?  What would they say about how we love and treat others not like us?  What would they say about our ability and power to forgive those oppose us, hurt and persecute us physically and/or with malicious gossip and sarcasm? 

What would they say about our ability to love?

I think these thoughts as we read this passage.  The Jewish leaders are circling Jesus like bullies on the playground.  The are accusing Jesus of blasphemy.  What is that exactly, you ask?  According to Webster, blasphemy “is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.  It involves the act of claiming the attributes of a deity with irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable.”  Jesus proves them right by the evidence of His actions, but they still did not believe Him.  Wait, what?!  Read on…

John—God’s Love

John 10:22-42, The Message

22-24 They were celebrating Hanukkah just then in Jerusalem. It was winter. Jesus was strolling in the Temple across Solomon’s Porch. The Jews, circling him, said, “How long are you going to keep us guessing? If you’re the Messiah, tell us straight out.”

25-30 Jesus answered, “I told you, but you don’t believe. Everything I have done has been authorized by my Father, actions that speak louder than words. You don’t believe because you’re not my sheep. My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. I and the Father are one heart and mind.”

31-32 Again the Jews picked up rocks to throw at him. Jesus said, “I have made a present to you from the Father of a great many good actions. For which of these acts do you stone me?”

33 The Jews said, “We’re not stoning you for anything good you did, but for what you said—this blasphemy of calling yourself God.”

34-38 Jesus said, “I’m only quoting your inspired Scriptures, where God said, ‘I tell you—you are gods.’ If God called your ancestors ‘gods’—and Scripture doesn’t lie—why do you yell, ‘Blasphemer! Blasphemer!’ at the unique One the Father consecrated and sent into the world, just because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I don’t do the things my Father does, well and good; don’t believe me. But if I am doing them, put aside for a moment what you hear me say about myself and just take the evidence of the actions that are right before your eyes. Then perhaps things will come together for you, and you’ll see that not only are we doing the same thing, we are the same—Father and Son. He is in me; I am in him.”

39-42 They tried yet again to arrest him, but he slipped through their fingers. He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and stayed there. A lot of people followed him over. They were saying, “John did no miracles, but everything he said about this man has come true.” Many believed in him then and there.

WHAT WE LEARN—The Case: Jewish Leaders vs. Christ

The leaders surrounded Jesus in the temple so that He had to stop and listen to them. They had decided that it was time for a “showdown,” and they did not want Him to evade the issue any longer. “How long are You going to hold us in suspense?” they kept saying to Him. “Tell us plainly—are You the Messiah?”

The Evidence

Jesus reminded them of what He had already taught them. He emphasized the witness of His words (“I told you”) and His works (see John 5:17, and 7:14 for similar replies).

Jesus reveals to the Jewish leaders why they did not understand His words or grasp the significance of His works: they were not His sheep. From the human standpoint, we become His sheep by believing, but from the divine standpoint, we believe because we are His sheep. There is a mystery here that we cannot fathom or explain, but we can accept it and rejoice (Rom. 11:33–36). God has His sheep and He knows who they are. They will hear His voice and respond.

Jesus went on to explain that His sheep are secure in His hand and in the Father’s hand. “They shall never perish” is His promise (John 3:16; 6:39; 17:12; 18:9).

Jesus made a statement that He knew would startle His enemies and give them more reason to oppose Him (John 10:30). It was the “plain answer” that the religious leaders had asked for. “I and my Father are one” is as clear a statement of His deity as you will find anywhere in Scripture. This was even stronger than His statement that He had come down from heaven (John 6) or that He existed before Abraham ever lived (John 8:58).

Warren Wiersbe helps to explain “Oneness” in his commentary; “The word one does not suggest that the Father and the Son are identical persons. Rather, it means that they are one in essence: the Father is God and the Son is God, but the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. He is speaking about unity, not identity. (See John 17:21–24 for similar language.)

The Jewish leaders, who knew The Law well but didn’t know God understood clearly what Jesus was saying! Those who heard it knew exactly what Jesus was saying: “I am God!” (Note John 10:33.) To speak this way, of course, was blasphemy, and according to Jewish belief, blasphemy had to be punished by being put to death (see Lev. 24:16; Num. 15:30ff.; Deut. 21:22).

Jesus refutes their argument with the words of Psalm 82.  The “picture” in this Psalm is that of a court, where God has assembled the judges of the earth, to warn them that they too will one day be judged. The Hebrew word elohim can be translated as “god” or as “judges,” as in Exodus 21:6 and 22:8–9. It is also one of the Old Testament names for God. The Jewish rulers certainly knew their own language and they knew that Jesus was speaking the truth. If God called human judges “gods,” then why should they stone Him for applying the same title to Himself?

Evidence presented.  Truth wins.  Jesus is Truth.

John 10:36 is crucial because it gives a double affirmation of the deity of Christ. First, the Father sanctified (set apart) the Son and sent Him into the world, and second, Jesus stated boldly, “I am the Son of God” (see John 5:25). He gave them the “plain answer” they asked for, but they would not believe it!

Time to decide.  What say you? 

Do you really believe what you believe about God and His Son really real?  Pause, take all the time you need to present the evidence and make a decision.  It is a matter of life and death.

Lord,

You continue to light the path to more and more understanding but I find the more I learn, the more I learn I need to know.  Guide my thoughts all day long for I’m listening for Your voice above all others in this world.  You give life.  There is no one like you.  You are my Shepherd.  You are all I need.  You let me rest in green meadows.  You lead me beside peaceful streams.  You renew my strength.  You guide me along right paths, bringing honor to Your Name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil of healing.  My cup overflows with your blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life and I will live in your house forever.  Yes!  There is NO ONE like you!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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I KNOW YOU!

There is no greater feeling when someone we recognize from our past or present relationships acknowledges us by calling us by our name—correctly!  Our first thought might be, what, Joe actually knows my name?  What did I do to deserve that?  Our second thought is of relief when we reciprocate the honor by remembering their name!  Right?!

Yes, honor is given to a person when we remember their names.  It shows we cared enough to remember.  It signifies we somehow connected with them in a way that caused us to remember their name and them.  We must have had a relationship with that person in a way that caused us to never forget their name.

Guess what?  Jesus knows each one of our names.  Scripture tells us that God knows not only knows our name but he knew us before we were the twinkle in our mom and dad’s eyes!  (Psalm 139) God even knows the number of hairs you have on your head right now, at this moment!  For some of us, he subtracts from that number often.  (Smiling).  Seriously, the One who made you knows you.

Jesus sets the record straight about this “knowing” by telling another sheep/shepherd analogy.  We who believe get it.  The Shepherd knows HIS sheep.  But do the sheep know and recognize HIS voice and follow?  They do if they fully trust the Shepherd for protection and provision as He leads them.

Imagine the face of Jesus when the not—yet believers don’t get the story.  (“Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So, he tried again.”) Was there a slight eye roll and could a sigh be heard from our Good Shepherd?  Jesus moves forward and explains with clarity who He is and who we are in the story.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep.  We are the sheep who know His voice and follow Him.  Simply stated, but that’s where we are headed.

John—God’s Love

John 10, The Message

He Calls His Sheep by Name

1-5 “Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”

6-10 Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep rustlers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.

14-18 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”

19-21 This kind of talk caused another split in the Jewish ranks. A lot of them were saying, “He’s crazy, a maniac—out of his head completely. Why bother listening to him?” But others weren’t so sure: “These aren’t the words of a crazy man. Can a ‘maniac’ open blind eyes?”

THINK ABOUT IT…

Jesus is not only the Shepherd who loves His sheep and calls them by name, he lays his life down for them as a fortified, powerful gate that separates the sheep from harm, from evil who seeks to devour the sheep.  Nothing will ever get through this “Gate”.  Jesus is the Shepherd who is the Gate and stands between good and evil.  What blessed assurance, right?!

“I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.  I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary.”

LET TRUTH SINK IN…

Jesus not only knows us by name, He was willing to lay down his life for ours!  This kind of love is relentless, merciful, selfless, full of humility and truly not of this world!  This is amazing grace!  This is crazy, amazing love!  (See also Philippians 2)  The Jews couldn’t wrap their heads around this “out of his head”, not from this world thinking.  But Jesus knew, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Salvation is for all—ALL the sheep in all the pens around the world who believe.

Friends, Our Shepherd knows our hearts and our thoughts.  We have nothing to hide.  He knows our names.  He knows exactly what we need when we need it most. 

Psalm 23 culminates our learning:

You are my Shepherd.  You are all I need.  You let me rest in green meadows.

You lead me beside peaceful streams.

You renew my strength.

You guide me along right paths, bringing honor to your Name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me.

Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil.

My cup overflows with blessings. 

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever. 

Lord, Good Shepherd, Savior and Lord,

Thank you for knowing my name, my heart, mind and soul and loving me beyond my wildest dreams.  Continue to lead me.  I believe You.  I trust You.  I’m yours forever.  Help me to hear and recognize your voice quickly and follow you!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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INSTEAD, SEE WHAT GOD CAN DO

We want answers!  Our humanness demands an explanation for every occurrence that happens to us, to our family and friends and even to those we don’t know.  When we struggle to explain, we begin to blame.  We judge people we don’t know, who struggle with difficulties with harsh criticisms, put-downs of character, unloving and unkind words cascading over them all because we have this unholy need to explain and blame.

Oh, friends, we’ve all done it without thinking, without knowing and without looking to God.  When we attempt to explain and blame, we begin this quick slide down a slippery slope into a darkness that is hard to climb up from.  But it is possible.  With God, it is possible to stop the judgement and begin to look up to see what God can do and is doing in any given situation and give HIM all the glory, honor and praise.

I repent.  I was blind, spiritually blind, but now I see. 

Jesus shines a light on our blindness so we can see, truly see God.  We’re consistently asking the wrong questions in life.  Ask instead, “God, Father in Heaven, what do you want and what do you want from me today?”  Like Jesus who came to save us and make us holy and whole, we need to turn about face from sin of self to Jesus for right thinking and living.  His thoughts are much higher and nobler than our thoughts.  Ask God to help us stop the explain and blame game.  Instead look to see what God is doing all around us!  When we do, He even allows us to join Him in His work to help people find and follow Him in the Name of Jesus for the glory of God!  

“We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” –Jesus

This is the right explanation for life eternal.  Follow the Light of the world. Ah, I was blind but now I see.

John—God’s Love

John 9, The Message

True Blindness

1-2 Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

3-5 Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”

6-7 He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “Sent”). The man went and washed—and saw.

Soon the town was buzzing. His relatives and those who year after year had seen him as a blind man begging were saying, “Why, isn’t this the man we knew, who sat here and begged?”

Others said, “It’s him all right!”

But others objected, “It’s not the same man at all. It just looks like him.”

He said, “It’s me, the very one.”

10 They said, “How did your eyes get opened?”

11 “A man named Jesus made a paste and rubbed it on my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ I did what he said. When I washed, I saw.”

12 “So where is he?”

“I don’t know.”

13-15 They marched the man to the Pharisees. This day when Jesus made the paste and healed his blindness was the Sabbath. The Pharisees grilled him again on how he had come to see. He said, “He put a clay paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “Obviously, this man can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.”

Others countered, “How can a bad man do miraculous, God-revealing things like this?” There was a split in their ranks.

17 They came back at the blind man, “You’re the expert. He opened your eyes. What do you say about him?”

He said, “He is a prophet.”

18-19 The Jews didn’t believe it, didn’t believe the man was blind to begin with. So they called the parents of the man now bright-eyed with sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, the one you say was born blind? So how is it that he now sees?”

20-23 His parents said, “We know he is our son, and we know he was born blind. But we don’t know how he came to see—haven’t a clue about who opened his eyes. Why don’t you ask him? He’s a grown man and can speak for himself.” (His parents were talking like this because they were intimidated by the Jewish leaders, who had already decided that anyone who took a stand that this was the Messiah would be kicked out of the meeting place. That’s why his parents said, “Ask him. He’s a grown man.”)

24 They called the man back a second time—the man who had been blind—and told him, “Give credit to God. We know this man is an impostor.”

25 He replied, “I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind . . . I now see.”

26 They said, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27 “I’ve told you over and over and you haven’t listened. Why do you want to hear it again? Are you so eager to become his disciples?”

28-29 With that they jumped all over him. “You might be a disciple of that man, but we’re disciples of Moses. We know for sure that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this man even comes from.”

30-33 The man replied, “This is amazing! You claim to know nothing about him, but the fact is, he opened my eyes! It’s well known that God isn’t at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will. That someone opened the eyes of a man born blind has never been heard of—ever. If this man didn’t come from God, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

34 They said, “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” Then they threw him out in the street.

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 The man said, “Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?”

38 “Master, I believe,” the man said, and worshiped him.

39 Jesus then said, “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.”

40 Some Pharisees overheard him and said, “Does that mean you’re calling us blind?”

41 Jesus said, “If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”

CAMP ON THE WORDS OF THE NOW SIGHTED MAN

“I did what he said. When I washed, I saw.” 

“I know one thing for sure: I was blind . . . I now see.”

“…The fact is, he opened my eyes! It’s well known that God isn’t at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will. That someone opened the eyes of a man born blind has never been heard of—ever.”

“’Master, I believe,’ the man said, and worshiped him.”

We cannot judge the Pharisee’s behavior and harsh words, for we are them at times.  Only Jesus can open the eyes of the blind in all ways.  Jesus, open my eyes. 

To God be the glory!

Lord,

I ask in prayer, the words of the Psalmist, “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.”  Keep my eyes wide open to experience the fullness of your glory in my life.  Continue to teach me for I have not yet arrived in knowing all there is to know about You.  Help me to follow in your ways without blinders over my eyes.  May Your Light guide each step I take all day long.  Show me what you want from me and I will do it.  Take away my sinful urge to explain and blame; instead, and turn my head up to look to You for life forever in your Name, for Your glory.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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BACK-FORWARD

Wait, what?  Back-Forward, what kind of made-up word is that, you’re probably thinking.  It is the only way to explain the process we need to seriously internalize the belief we say we have about Jesus.  We need to go back to what the prophets said about Jesus then study the life He lived on earth.  To go back in scripture, learn and believe what was said about Him is to move forward in our faith and belief in Him today!  We discover He is who He says He is—I AM.

Believing in Jesus means knowing where He came from, knowing He was at the beginning of Creation, knowing He is the Son of God sent by God to set the world free from their sins while restoring a right relationship with God.  It is truly believing Jesus sacrificed His life for ours in payment for all our sins.  We who believe, have been saved by grace, read His Word, experience His Holy Spirit’s work in us and through us grow each day in understanding who Jesus is and how He works.  We know the “back-forward” story. 

The Jews Jesus is talking to in our passage from John today are not getting it.  They’re not understanding who Jesus is and how He works.  They need to have back-forward thinking in their examination of Jesus.  So, Jesus leads them there. 

Friends, it’s like reverse engineering in a way, for those of you who need proof that Jesus is who He says He is.  When engineers approach something new and want to copy but don’t understand yet how it functions, they use a process known as reverse engineering.  Reverse-engineering is the act of dismantling an object to see how it works. It is done primarily to analyze and gain knowledge about the way something works but often is used to duplicate or enhance the object. Many things can be reverse-engineered, including software, physical machines, military technology and even biological functions related to how genes work.

Depending on the technology, the knowledge gained during reverse-engineering can be used to repurpose obsolete objects, do a security analysis, gain a competitive advantage or simply to teach someone about how something works. No matter how the knowledge is used or what it relates to, reverse-engineering is the process of gaining that knowledge from a finished object.

There are three general steps common to all reverse-engineering efforts. They include:

  • Information extraction. The object being reverse-engineered is studied, information about its design is extracted and that information is examined to determine how the pieces fit together.
  • Modeling. The collected information is abstracted into a conceptual model, with each piece of the model explaining its function in the overall structure.
  • Review. This involves reviewing the model and testing it in various scenarios to ensure it is a realistic abstraction of the original object or system. Once it is tested, the model can be implemented to reengineer the original object.

Did you enjoy your science lesson for today? (Smiling) It relates!  Seriously, though, the closer we examine who Jesus is, where He came from, who sent Him, why He came, with how He modeled righteous thinking and behaving that pleases God our Creator, the deeper our faith.  Our belief in Him expands beyond our wildest thinking.  Our faith grows in our knowledge gained from knowing Him peronally.  Our faith in Jesus becomes an unmovable foundation upon which to build our trust and hope in God that is unshakable—unlike all other things we put our trust in each day without even considering how they work. 

The more we learn about how God works in our lives, the more we want to learn.  God is like that.  I challenge you (along with me) to extract the facts about Jesus and examine how the pieces fit together.  Examine His life, the model of perfection.  See how He lived and how God works in our lives, too! Lean into His Holy Spirit who teaches us to model His life, though we are not perfect.  We have a model to imitate or copy.  We have been given purpose with goals to follow Him who loves us greatly.  Review and evaluate consistently to make sure who you are modeling is who you want to be in Christ.  Like Jesus, honor the Father.

John—God’s Love

John 8:48-59, The Message

I Am Who I Am

48 The Jews then said, “That settles it. We were right all along when we called you a Samaritan and said you were crazy—demon-possessed!”

49-51 Jesus said, “I’m not crazy. I simply honor my Father, while you dishonor me. I am not trying to get anything for myself. God intends something gloriously grand here and is making the decisions that will bring it about. I say this with absolute confidence. If you practice what I’m telling you, you’ll never have to look death in the face.”

52-53 At this point the Jews said, “Now we know you’re crazy. Abraham died. The prophets died. And you show up saying, ‘If you practice what I’m telling you, you’ll never have to face death, not even a taste.’ Are you greater than Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you think you are!”

54-56 Jesus said, “If I were striving to get all the attention, it wouldn’t amount to anything. But my Father, the same One you say is your Father, put me here at this time and place of splendor. You haven’t recognized him in this. But I have. If I, in false modesty, said I didn’t know what was going on, I would be as much of a liar as you are. But I do know, and I am doing what he says. Abraham—your ‘father’—with elated faith looked down the corridors of history and saw my day coming. He saw it and cheered.”

57 The Jews said, “You’re not even fifty years old—and Abraham saw you?”

58 “Believe me,” said Jesus, “I am who I am long before Abraham was anything.”

59 That did it—pushed them over the edge. They picked up rocks to throw at him. But Jesus slipped away, getting out of the Temple.

“I AM who I am…” –Jesus

Lord, God

You are alpha and omega, beginning and end.  You are God and we are not.  You are Savior and You are Lord of my life.  There is so much more work You have to do in me so do what you must to make me more and more like you and less like me.  Make my desires for life be your desires because your ways are best.  Thank you for your continued transformation in my life. 

In Jesus Name, Amen

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